Hambleton District Council could become England’s first to use heat from the ground to heat its leisure centres.
Leading members of the authority have agreed to further investigate whether investing £2.1m into ground source heat pumps would be likely to benefit residents in the long-run.
The renewable energy technology is based on temperatures 20ft below ground maintaining almost constant temperatures between 10C and 16C and the use of pumps to force the transfer of heat from the ground.
The authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Peter Wilkinson told a meeting of the council’s Cabinet that the system could be introduced to heat pools and heating systems at its leisure centres in Bedale, Stokesley and Thirsk and at the Northallerton Civic Centre.
He said it had been forecast income generated by renewable heat incentive payments over 20 years would be £6.9m and savings on the cost of utilities would be £1.2m.
Cllr Wilkinson said he understood only two local authorities in Britain – the Isles of Orkney and Aberdeen City councils – had embraced the technology to date.
He said as the council would borrow money to fund the scheme, it would not go ahead unless concerns over whether the technology would work in a non-domestic setting and its longevity had been settled to a good degree of confidence.
Cllr Wilkinson said: “By nature I am risk averse and I have to say I am nervous regarding this project.”
He said he also wanted more assurances that the firms behind ground source energy technology would not fold as some wind turbine companies had, leaving some buyers with multi-million investments that could not be maintained.
He told the meeting: “You may as well just buy and yacht and sail around the world. It would be a complete waste of money.”
Members heard the Government’s renewable heat incentive scheme was the first of its kind in the world and contributed to its 2020 vision of 12 per cent heating provided by renewable sources, but as the offer was time-limited the council needed to press on.
The council’s governance boss, Councillor Isobel Sanderson, said she believed investing in alternative energy was the way forward.
She added: “I think it will show that Hambleton is a forward-thinking council. We are not talking about putting a windmill up and relying on how fast the wind blows to get our return or solar panels, where we would rely on how much the sun is going to shine. Ground source is just about putting your probe into the ground and it’s there, it’s constant.
“I understand people are cautious about new technology, but as more and more people buy into this package there are companies out there who do deliver on what they say.”